Dead Space is a pretty interesting franchise. It started off as a decidedly survival horror series, then morphed into a survival-action hybrid, and now, Visceral Games seems to be taking the series into a more action oriented direction; not to mention the controversial addition of coop.
Having sufficiently tackled the single player and cooperative portions of the Dead Space 3 demo, I had a chance to speak with Dead Space executive producer Steve Papoutsis in a round-table interview and get some more information on the highly anticipated sequel.
Steve: Hi! How is everyone? So let’s get things started.
[Steve kicked off the interview by describing what Dead Space means to him.]
Steve: “So Dead Space isn’t about any one thing. It’s about immersion. Tension. Great atmosphere. Action. Don’t like to classify it as only “action” or “survival horror.” It’s always used these descriptors together.
Chris: To follow along with your statement in regards to action elements, I noticed that [series protagonist] Isaac gets increasingly stronger and more formidable as the series goes on. Do you ever feel like this compromises the spirit of the series?
Steve: We’re able to create those tenants through other means. The player’s ability is not the only lever that delivers on things I’ve described. Try to be a relatable fantasy. A guy like Isaac is able to defeat a ship of Necromorphs, it would be ridiculous to be scared in the second game. With Isaac being kidnapped he would want to further take out aggression on the Necromorphs.
The level of power Isaac possesses is in the hands of the player. It’s not like you can run around like he’s the Incredible Hulk or something. You’ll have to amass enough skill with the controller. His attitude is definitely part of the story. If you picked up Dead Space 1 and 2, the controls have evolved slightly, and there’s nothing inherently more powerful in Isaac. We continue to modify his attitude because he’s reacting to things a person would react to. Does that make sense?
Chris: Yeah, it makes a little more sense now.
Chris: So, I played the demo yesterday, and I found myself to really enjoy playing as John Carver; maybe not because I’m “tired” of Isaac, but I enjoyed mixing things up. So I was wondering, with fan demand, is there a possibility of continuing John Carver’s story, either tangentially to Isaac’s or self-contained?
Steve: Well I think right now we really haven’t gotten into the details of what might be next. I mean, certainly its a possibility because the universe is so big and we’re developing the universe. But we’re focusing more on making this game the best it can be. If we get support from the players and the critical support from the critics. Then we have that conversation about doing that. I’ll be honest, we’ve had some conversations about it, but we really haven’t gone into it in full detail. Once we have some time off, we’ll have that great conversation about where we go.
[Steve also was able to elaborate more on how co-op came about following that question.]
Steve: Co-op came in very early. We were thinking, ok yea, it would be cool if we had a cool snow planet. Ok that could work with this element of the story. As we start stitching together the story, we look at the mechanics and the features beyond that. So very early on, we we’re talking about co-op. Initially it’s not drop in drop out, it was a separate story.
But does that make a lot of sense to our story? We started thinking about that, and what would be awesome is if we could make an experience that is true to Dead Space, but something that hadn’t been done before. Really this ambitious development to co-op, where you can drop in drop out at any time.
If you’re going to make a coop game, those characters need depth, and if we can deliver on all of those things, we can make co-op make sense. It meant a lot of late nights, but that’s sort of where we are today, and we’re happy to be able to do that.
If you are anti-co-op, you aren’t playing Carver, and you’ll miss out on his part of the story. Jump into co-op, play it with your friends; get to see single player and co-op. So it’s really his perspective. There’s not an alternate ending because Carver is in it. It just adds flavor to the overall story.
Chris: When I was playing the demo, I saw some clear influences from John Carpenter’s The Thing — can you talk about any other potential influences on the game?
Steve: I think we’ve talked about this over the years. There’s certain movies that we enjoy as a team. When we bring together a team everyone has a favorite movie and favorite book.
I think one of the most referenced things is The Thing, and that film is great, so hey that’s cool. I think if we would look back and see a popular reference point is the works of H.P. Lovecraft. He’s just a great storyteller and he’s been a bit inspiring.
[When asked by another outlet, Steve set the record straight on the Wii U release.]
Steve: I’m sure the Wii U will do well for Nintendo, and it’s really interesting, but we’re not going to dead-bolt that into Dead Space. When we did Extraction, that was built from the ground-up for the Wii.
If we developed Dead Space 3 for the Wii U we wouldn’t be able to incorporate everything in it. It just wasn’t in the plan, and we weren’t going to change the plan from the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
Chris: Readers wanted me to ask about a possibility of Dante’s Inferno 2. I personally felt like you guys did a great job on it, and would also like to see a sequel someday.
Steve: You know I think that’s a great question. I mean, time will tell. I mean I would never say never.
[Other outlets had a chance to ask their questions, and the interview was beginning to wrap-up]
Chris: So can you describe any of your developmental challenges or experiences with Kinect?
So Kinect was fun to develop for. Dead Space Extraction was a motion based game. We got a chance to play around with Kinect, so we figured we’d do something different. Through the use of voice commands we figured we’d do a variety of different things. When you want to give your friend an item, you can just say “give player health” and they’ll just hand things over them.
So you can streamline actions, and just bark orders at the screen; it’s a bit cathartic. If you swear, the game will react that too. It was also fun to program for different reactions.
Chris: Thanks for your time!
Steve: Sure, no problem!
You can follow Steve at @leveluptime on Twitter for more Dead Space 3 related updates.